USF faces tough questions in wake of verdict

Mass hysteria does not even come close to describing the years of controversy that have surrounded former USF professor Sami Al-Arian. After all the building momentum, the jury in the Al-Arian trial rendered its verdict – not guilty on eight key counts and a deadlock on nine others.

However, USF did not have too much to say regarding the pandemonium. The University’s official statement reads: “The University of South Florida is watching the recent legal developments. USF ended Sami Al-Arian’s employment nearly three years ago, and we do not expect anything to change that.”

That’s it; that’s all she wrote, literally. The University is probably playing it safe with its response due to USF President Judy Genshaft being out of the country right now. Yet, the response may not be all that surprising, since University officials have not exactly had warm feelings when it comes to Al-Arian.

“He’s out of our life, and I hope he stays out,” said Dick Beard, chairman of the USF Board of Trustees, in an April article in the St. Petersburg Times.

Roy Weatherford, president of the USF faculty union, said that Al-Arian was denied due process to explain his side of the story after an appearance shortly after Sept. 11 on the FOX News show, The O’Reilly Factor, on which host Bill O’Reilly tried to drag Al-Arian through the mud, saying to Al-Arian that “if I was the CIA, I’d follow you wherever you went.”

“(After Al-Arian was fired), the big fight was between the people who thought he should have due process – the union – and those who thought he should be fired immediately – the administration,” Weatherford said.

The two viewpoints did not and still do not seem to agree. The fight that began after Al-Arian was denied due process could be renewed.

If acquitted on the rest of the charges, Al-Arian – who had been used as a test case for the Patriot Act – could have a shot at getting his job back, as he was denied due process and there is an administrative grievance still pending from before the trial began, according to Weatherford.

This man has been proven not guilty by a jury of his peers. Simple as that. The justice system of this nation worked as it is intended to, though those who wished for the verdict to go another way may disagree. By trying to make an example out of Al-Arian through this case, many believe that its outcome has taken some wind out of the sails of the Bush administration’s War on Terror.

Depending upon what happens with the nine counts declared as a mistrial, it seems that – much to the dismay of many members of the administration – Al-Arian could be back in the “life” of USF.